alumnus from Chicago
While attending Murray State University, I was shocked at the large number of people who smoked. Coming from the smoke-free state of Illinois, I was not accustomed to being asked “smoking or non-smoking” upon entering a restaurant. As my college career continued I became aware of the increasingly large amount of air pollution and litter smokers contributed to campus. Many Kentuckians pride themselves on the fact that Kentucky is a major producer of domestic tobacco. However, Kentuckians should be ashamed that the state has the highest rate of smokers at 25.6, percent according to the Center for Disease Control. The high rate of Kentucky smokers increases the rate of lung disease, heart attack and decreases the state’s life expectancy.
It is nearly impossible for students to enter or exit a building on campus without being bombarded by the smell of cigarette smoke. Non-smokers are forced to hold their breath when walking through the deadly cloud. This can clearly be seen when entering Faculty Hall. Students and University employees are allowed to smoke on the backside of the building where the automated doors are open for an extended period of time. It is common to smell cigarette smoke throughout the entire building because smokers congregate near the doors.
The smell is extremely strong during poor weather conditions because smokers congregate nearly in the building to evade the elements. The University has made a valiant effort to reduce tobacco litter by placing receptacles at entrances to campus buildings, but it is more common to see tobacco littered along pathways, tossed in planters and flicked in the Quad.
More than 500 university campuses across the nation have adopted a 100 percent smoke-free or tobacco free policy. One of the newer universities to adopt such a policy is the University of Kentucky. University of Kentucky adopted the policy in 2009 and 120 campuses have adopted a similar policy this year.
At University of Kentucky, volunteers assist in keeping the campus 100 percent smoke-free by patrolling the campus and respectfully asking smokers to dispose of their tobacco products and providing information about university resources to help quit smoking.
With support from the university administration, University of Kentucky provides support and incentives for the Wildcat family to end their smoking habit. It provides counseling, nicotine replacement coupons and support groups. By combining the support and enforcement of the 100 percent smoke-free policy, the university has seen a decrease in the number of smokers who attend or work for the university.
The Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo., has a successful smoke-free policy, which has been effective since 2003. The first violation results in a warning. The second and third violation result in a $15 fine or two hours spent cleaning the campus of tobacco litter. Further violations result in the offender being placed on probation or asked to leave the college.
Murray State University prides itself on being a university leading in innovation and can continue that trend by adopting a 100 percent smoke-free policy across campus. This new campus policy could easily be adopted and enforced by Campus Police, Racer Patrol and all Racers.
It would be wise for Murray State University to adopt a smoke-free policy, which protects the image of the University, the campus grounds and the health of those who are on campus. The University is continually trying to combat rising healthcare costs and by adopting a smoke-free campus there would be great incentive for students, faculty and staff to end their smoking habits.
With the increase of campuses, cities and counties implementing such policies, the state of Kentucky is to take notice. The smoke-free effort could lead to new state legislation adopting such regulations to protect other communities across the Commonwealth. Many states have adopted such legislation and, with effort from Murray State University, the count could be increased.
It would be wise for Murray State University to use the remainder of the semester to create and implement a new smoke-free policy.
Students, faculty and staff should be allowed to voice their opinions and create a unique policy, which best assists in bettering the health of the Racer family.